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Island school preparing to open doors for new year

By Staff | Aug 4, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED The Sanibel School’s new Principal Jamie Reid, left, and new Assistant Principal Jennifer Lusk.

As the Lee County School District welcomed hundreds of new teachers last week during orientation, The Sanibel School announced two new faces for the coming year and a change to administration.

With the 2020-21 school year set to start on Aug. 31, island school Assistant Principal Jamie Reid is taking up the lead role as principal. Former Principal Charles “Chuck” Vilardi, who served the Sanibel institution for four years, remains with the district as the new principal for Diplomat Middle School.

Reid joined the Sanibel school in 2015 as the assistant principal. She had previously served as the assistant principal at Trafalgar Middle School and has worked for the district for over 30 years at the elementary and middle school levels. A national board certified teacher, Reid has received awards for her performance, such as the Lee County Golden Apple Teacher, Teacher of Recognition and more.

“I’m just very excited to be in this role,” she said last week.

“I miss our students. I miss our staff,” Reid added. “I can’t wait to see the students back again.”

This year’s theme is “Riding The Waves Of Change. Sanibel Safe. Strong. Strategic.”

Asked about her priorities, Reid pointed to the safety of her students, staff and the community.

“I think that needs to be our initial focus,” she said.

Reid’s goal is for the school to remain a top institution in the district, with emotional and academic support available for staff. In the two weeks before school starts, faculty will undergo training.

“We’re really going to focus on helping them on how to stay safe,” she said.

One focus will be how to connect with their students virtually for those on Lee Home Connect.

“They’re going to need a lot of support,” Reid said.

The school will continue with its leadership program and its STEM program.

“It has been highly successful and very popular,” she said of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum. “And have our students get involved in some really exciting projects.”

New Assistant Principal Jennifer Lusk has come on board to help the students reach their goals.

“I’m beyond thrilled,” she said of joining the island team. “It’s just thrilling.”

A Captiva resident, Lusk spent the last four years serving as the assistant principal for Lehigh Elementary School. She has worked for the district since 2004. In 2019, she won the Florida Sterling Council’s Storyboard Competition for her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Project “Absent Minded.”

Lusk said her goal is to provide as much communication and reassurance as possible. One way is through social media, with new Facebook and Instagram pages set up for the school and a YouTube channel in the works. She plans to promote school-based activities, plus community involvement.

“To be a member of the community not only as a resident, but part of the school family,” Lusk said. “I’m so privileged and honored.”

Along with the new face in administration, the Sanibel school will welcome two new educators this year. Michelle Mitnitsky will teach middle-school science and Angela Gillette will teach gifted classes.

“Michelle is coming to us from Harns Marsh Middle School,” Reid said.

Her first year with the district, Mitnitsky taught eighth-grade science last year. Prior to serving at Harns Marsh, she taught in New York. At the island school, Mitnitsky will cover sixth through eighth grade.

“She’s going to have her hands full with quite a bit of curriculum,” Reid said. “She has a lot of hands-on ideas for the science material. She has a lot of experience with science, so we’re very excited.”

A new transplant, Gillette taught middle school last year in North Carolina.

“She has a strong background in teaching gifted education at the elementary and middle school levels,” Reid said, noting Gillette will handle K-8. “She also has a strong background in math and science.”

“She’s really excited about relocating,” Reid added, explaining that Gillette has family in the area.

As far as how the school year will work, Lee County families have been given the option of face-to-face instruction, Lee Home Connect, the Lee Virtual School or home-schooling for their children.

“Right now we’re in a phase where parents are making these selections,” Reid said.

For those who pick face-to-face instruction, safety protocols and precautions will be in place.

“Our custodians have been very hard at work over the summer disinfecting the buildings,” she said, noting that the team also has been working to improve air flow and circulation in the structures.

“We’ll have all sorts of safety precautions and social distancing,” Reid added.

There will be staggered entries and dismissals.

Lusk noted that parents will be contacted with the details.

“Our goal is to make parents and staff and students feel as safe as possible,” Reid said.

Hallways have been transformed into one-way hallways with stickers and directional maps. There are signs up to train students about social distancing, and staff and students are required to wear masks.

“In the classrooms, students will be separated as close to six feet apart as we can and facing the same direction,” she said, noting that some will eat in the cafeteria, some in the courtyard, some in class.

Excess classroom furniture has been removed to enable for and promote social distancing.

Hand-sanitizing stations will be set up, with routine handwashing encouraged.

Lusk noted that the students will be taught the proper ways to sanitize and wash their hands, including the right methods and amount of time. The school will provide daily broadcasts on staying healthy.

“There’s going to be a lot of procedures and training,” she said.

As for what happens if a teacher or staff member tests positive for the virus, Reid explained that the district has a policy the school will follow that covers reporting it, required quarantine and more.

“Hopefully, we can get substitutes,” she added. “I think that will be our biggest challenge.”

Another change this year is the school will not hold its traditional open house.

“The district is not allowing us to have an in-person open house,” Reid said, adding that the new kindergarteners will stop in on an appointment basis to meet their teacher and get orientated.

She noted that the Sanibel school will continue to have a close relationship with its families.

“Despite the challenging circumstances, we are really excited about the new school year,” Reid said.

Families with questions can contact 239-472-1617 or JamieBR@LeeSchools.Net.

“I’m encouraging them to reach out to me,” she said.

The Sanibel School is at 3840 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.